Fram, from Norwegian "forward", was, at the time she was built, a unique and some would say remarkable vessel. Commissioned by the eminent Norwegian north polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen and built by the famous shipbuilder Colin Archer in Larvik, she was designed down to the smallest detail for polar exploration. Nansen wrote:
"It shall be just big enough to carry supplies of coal and provisions for 12 men for 4 years. A vessel of approximately 170 tons (gross) would probably be adequate. It will have an engine strong enough to be able to operate at a speed of 6 knots, but in addition will also have a full rig of sails".
Nansen's polar exploration experience suggested to him that if ice floes could drift right across the polar area then ship might be able to the same. In order to do this, however, it was necessary to obtain a ship constructed in a way which would enable it to withstand the strain of becoming frozen fast in the ice.
Modifications that might be considered "standard" were made; the ribs were reinforced and more numerous than for ordinary vessels; the hull was 70cm thick and consisted of three layers of planking; additional protection was provided by metal side plates covering the vessel from bow to stern; the rudder and screws were also retractable.
Nansen's stroke of genius was in the well rounded profile of the hull so that, if ice-bound, she would be forced up and onto the ice, extruded as it were, rather than trapped and crushed as had happened to so many vessels before.
Fram was, therefore, built as three-master schooner of 39 m length, 11 m width, 420 tons displacement and with steamer engine of 220 horsepower. Additionally a small wind turbine was mounted to generate electricity.
Nansen's expedition to cross the north polar seas with Fram held fast in the ice was a success and his ideas for the construction of the hull were vindicated. Fram drifted for 1055 days across the polar sea from the New Siberian islands towards Spitsbergen from June 1983 until August 1896. At this time she was captained by Captain Otto Sverdrup, Nansen having disembarked onto the pack-ice in the hope of reaching the geographical north pole by ski and sled. The lure of achieving the pole just too great, especially so when it was apparent that Fram's drift would not actually take her precisely over the geographical north pole.
At the coclusion of Amundsen's Antarctic expedition, Fram had the accolade of being the ship that had sailed the furthest north and the furthest south, sailing a total of 84,000 nautical miles. Additionally Fram was one of the first vessels to sail through the Panama canal
In 1916 Fram was is a severe state of disrepair and a fund-raising committee was organised to oversee restoration of the vessel. Restoration started in 1929 and in Fram returned to Oslo. Today the Fram museum houses the restored vessel:
The Fram Museum shows the history of the polar explorers. Here you’ll find the world’s most famous polar ship, the Fram, from 1892. The ship is displayed in its original condition with interior and objects perfectly preserved. Every visitor is welcome on board!
The museum tells the story of the Norwegian polar expeditions, who also represent international history in the field of polar exploration: Nansen's journey across the Polar ocean and his attempt to go to the North Pole, Sverdrup's expedition to Greenland, a voyage where more than 200 000 square kilometers of unchartered land was discovered, and Amundsen's journey to the South Pole.
The Fram Museum